Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX fame has joined other technology leaders to issue a stark warning about so-called "killer robots", which includes drones, remote-controlled tanks and machine guns, urging the United Nations to act to prevent a high-tech arms race.
In an open letter to the UN they say lethal autonomous weapons threaten a "third revolution in warfare".
''Once this Pandora's Box is opened, it will be hard to close,'' Musk and 115 other specialists from around the globe wrote in a letter. The letter launched an International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Melbourne today.
Musk has long spoken out about the dangers of artificial intelligence. (See: Unbridled AI bigger threat than N Korea, warns Elon Musk)
Fears about the rise of AI and the risk posed by machines have escalated in recent years as the technology's use in warfare develops.
The letter to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons calls for solutions to "prevent an arms race" in lethal autonomous weapons. These future weapons - dubbed "killer robots" - are machines programmed to hit people or targets, and operate autonomously on the battlefield.
"Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend," the letter states.
The experts call autonomous weapons ''morally wrong'', and hope to add killer robots to the UN's list of banned weapons that include chemical and intentionally blinding laser weapons.
"These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways," the letter said.
The letter was signed by 116 robotics and artificial intelligence leaders from around the world, including Musk and Google's DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman.
A UN group examining autonomous weapons was due to meet on Monday and is now expected to meet in November.
A similar letter warning of the dangers of autonomous weapons, signed by a slew of tech experts including physicist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mr Musk, was released in 2015.
Musk recently clashed with another tech leader, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is less fearful about the future of AI.
It comes after the Facebook boss said that the doomsday scenario put forward by Musk was unhelpful.
Musk tweeted, "I've talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited."
''Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don't know how to react because it seems so ethereal,'' he said in comments obtained by tech website Recode. ''AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it's too late.''